Since the introduction of vaccination campaigns, around 60% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the anti-Covid vaccine. Even if this figure already represents more than half of the inhabitants of the Earth, there is a flagrant inequality in the level of global access to vaccines.
According to statistics, about 72% of vaccine doses were administered in wealthy or middle-income countries, compared to only 1% in developing countries. At present, there are countries that are already doing boosters or are even on their fourth dose of vaccine while many people around the world still do not have access to the first and second dose.
In this context, a new vaccine called CORBEVAX has been developed by researchers at the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine. The researchers hope that the vaccine can help solve the problem of the uneven distribution of vaccines around the world.
How CORBEVAX works
The CORBEVAX vaccine was developed by Doctor Maria Elena Bottazzi and Doctor Peter Hotez.
In 2003, during the SARS epidemic, these two researchers developed a similar vaccine by inserting the genetic information of part of the spike protein of the SARS virus into yeast. This allowed them to produce the protein in large quantities. The latter was then isolated and the researchers added an adjuvant to trigger an immune response. This is how the vaccine was produced. This vaccine was ready to use, but in the end it was not necessary, since the SARS epidemic did not last long.
When SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, emerged in 2019, the two scientists updated the spike protein to match that of SARS-CoV-2. Their work gave birth to the CORBEVAX vaccine.
The CORBEVAX vaccine works by stimulating and preparing the immune system for future encounters with SARS-CoV-2. What differentiates it from the other three vaccines licensed in the United States (the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and the viral vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson) is that instead of inducing the body to produce the spike protein, it directly delivers the protein to the organism.
As with mRNA vaccines, two doses are required for CORBEVAX.
A vaccine for all
Compared to other mRNA vaccines, protein subunit vaccines like CORBEVAX have an advantage because they are easier to produce using recombinant DNA technology. Additionally, this technique is relatively inexpensive and easier to scale. Indeed, suitable manufacturing facilities are already available and CORBEVAX can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator. This allows it to be produced quickly in large quantities and distributed more easily.
Currently, CORBEVAX is licensed under a patent-free license to a major Indian vaccine manufacturer called Biological E. Limited (BioE). The company plans to produce at least 100 million doses per month starting in February 2022. Thanks to the absence of patents, developing countries will also be able to produce and distribute the vaccine for their populations.
It should be noted that CORBEVAX failed to attract donor interest in the United States and was overtaken by mRNA vaccines. However, a large clinical trial conducted in the country showed that the vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infections. It is also well tolerated by people who have received it.
Either way, CORBEVAX happens to be one of the cheapest Covid vaccines out there, and so could eliminate the current inequities in vaccination.